Posts Tagged Helen Yendall

Running a Creative Writing Workshop

A few years ago I did the PTLLS qualification (Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector) and this week I finally got around to putting it into practice by running my first creative writing workshop. It was organised by FOLIO Sutton Coldfield, held at my local library and free to participants. Planning a creative writing workshop

On the agenda was creating haiku and writing letters to magazines. I chose these two topics to give a mix of writing for pleasure and for profit plus the pieces were short enough to complete in the two and a half hours allocated to the class. And I already had a basic lesson plan for the haiku section from the ‘micro teach’ I did as part of PTLLS.

The participants were a lovely group of people. The workshop had been billed as ‘An Introduction to Creative Writing’ and most had done either none or very little writing before but they were all enthusiastic. Because we only had a couple of hours together, I chose to do a very quick, basic ice-breaker to start the session. I produced my large, bright orange (imaginary) energy ball and we each said our name as we pretended to pass it around the room and take a burst of energy from from it.

During the workshop I deliberately set most of the writing exercises to be done in pairs so that no one felt put on the spot or awkward if they were struggling to get going. We worked up to writing a haiku by looking at examples, having a pictorial prompt and jotting down ad hoc words and phrases before trying to craft them into the syllable count of a haiku. Similarly, we looked at how to analyse a magazine letters’ page including things like word count, subject matter and tone of the letters printed, before trying to craft a letter ourselves.

There were a few learning points that I took away from the workshop:

  1. Running a creative writing workshop is like an iceberg – i.e. 9/10 of the work is the invisible preparation done beforehand in creating the exercises, handouts etc.
  2. It’s very hard to construct a lesson plan with accurate timings about how long each part will take. Sometimes it’s necessary to take a cue from the class – are they still busy writing or are they staring bored into space? During the coffee break the class started asking questions about how I tackle my own writing, this meant the break ran over slightly but I decided that was OK because we were talking about the different ways authors tackle novel writing, which had some benefit to the class participants.
  3. It’s worth asking participants to complete a feedback form at the end of the session in order to find out how it went (phew! all positive comments!) and what subjects might be popular in future workshops.

After running only one workshop, I don’t profess to be an expert on teaching creative writing – however, I know someone who is! If you’re looking for further information or advice on running creative writing classes, I suggest you take a look at Start a Creative Writing Class: How to Set Up, Run and Teach a Successful Class by my writing buddy Helen Yendall.

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How to Sell Books?

It’s about six weeks since The Promise was published and I’ve tried not to flood this blog with constant references to it. However,  today is my birthday and so I’m going to indulge. Here is a look back at what publicity the book has received in its ‘honeymoon’ post-publication phase (on a less self-centred note, I hope there might be some ideas here that you can use for your own books).

Sally Jenkins Public Speaking

Speaking at Boldmere Library

Author Events
So far I’ve done three author talks for The Promise, one at a library and two at community groups. A bonus from the library talk was the sale of two books to the library and the satisfaction of seeing them borrowed whilst my talk was still taking place.
I have another three talks lined up for April and May. The title of my talk is ‘How to Make Money Out of Murder’ and it covers writing a novel, readings from The Promise – and the best tools to use when committing a murder. The flushed cheeks in the photo show that I still get a bit nervous when speaking but hopefully it doesn’t show too much!

Print Media
I find this the hardest way to generate publicity, however the Warner Times (posted to all guests of the Warner Hotel Group) interviewed me and I was thrilled when below the interview, in their ‘Armchair Thrillers’ recommendations, The Promise was placed next to Cover Her Face by P.D. James. Not sure that will happen again!

The lovely Margaret James also gave The Promise a much appreciated and well-timed mention when she asked my views on grip lit for her column in  the March issue of Writing Magazine.

Retail Outlets
The Promise is available via bookshops but it was particularly pleasing to see a display of all three of my paperbacks in the window of my local WH Smith Local.

 

Internet Publicity
Lots of lovely bloggers supported me during the first couple of weeks publication.
In week 1: Helen Yendall and Julia Thorley published guest posts, as did the online magazine Female FirstAnne Harvey and Janette Davies interviewed me with lots of interesting (and sometimes difficult!) questions. Lou’s Book Blog did a spotlight post.
In week 2: I went on a 21 stop blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources. This threw up some lovely reviews and the full tour list is on Rachel’s website.

 

Sally Jenkins has woven a dark tale of murder, blackmail and retribution. As the plot thickens it’s hard to imagine where it will all end for the characters caught up in a web of intrigue and deceit.” – Amazon reviewer.

I’m very grateful to all the people and organisations mentioned above (if I’ve missed someone out, please let me know!) for the interest they’ve shown in my writing and their willingness to help. The Promise is also available in e-book format and from a range of online retailers such as Amazon and Waterstones.

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Publication of The Promise

Today The Promise goes out into the big wide world! The Promise by Sally Jenkins

It’s been a long time coming. I signed with The Book Guild last June and since then there’s been cover designs (back and front), proof reading, a marketing meeting, sorting out a blog tour etc. etc. Lots of people have been involved in bringing The Promise to publication. As well as the lovely people at The Book Guild, there’s my writing friends who have cheered me through the whole process of blank page to finished manuscript, my husband who puts up with a wife hiding herself away with a computer (at least I’m not hiding myself away with another man!), my mum who totally believes in me, everyone who bought Bedsit Three and made me think it was worthwhile trying to write another, all the followers of this blog who let me know I am not alone in my endeavours plus everyone in my non-writing life who has asked when the next book is coming out. The dedication at the front of The Promise is to you all with very many thanks:

For all those who have helped along the way – your support continues to be invaluable.

The Promise is dark fiction and the back cover blurb reads:

Olivia has recurring nightmares about the murder of a man which took place when she was a teenager. She refuses to explain the dreams to her worried fiancé, Mark.
Petty criminal Tina is diagnosed with a terminal illness and becomes concerned for the future welfare of her younger brother, Wayne.
When Tina finds a forgotten letter from her ex-cellmate, Audrey, a promise made decades before links the two families.
But the letter also contains a sinister secret…

The book is available in paperback from all major online book retailers and in high street bookshops. It’s also available on Kindle, iBooks, GooglePlay and Nook.

In the coming week I’ve got wonderful bloggers helping me get publicity for The Promise off to a flying start:

Monday 29th January – Helen Yendall’s Blog About Writing. Helen is my longtime writing buddy and fantastic womag writer.
Tuesday 30th JanuaryLou’s Book Blog. The lovely Lou will be shining the spotlight on The Promise.
Wednesday 31st January – Anne Harvey’s Passionate About The Past. I met Anne through my contact with the Birmingham Chapter of the RNA and we’ve helped each other along the way.
Friday 2nd February – Julia Thorley’s Life, Yoga and Other Adventures. Julia is a woman of many talents. She and I are virtual friends.

And week commencing February 5th there’ll be a 21 stop blog tour organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.

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Achieve Your Writing Goals

Back in May I went on a day course in London run by the very successful Joanna Penn and Orna Ross entitled How to Make a Living (and a Life) from Writing. 
We covered lots of topics to do with writing, publishing, money, income streams etc and I came away inspired. Needless to say, these things take time and I’m not yet (!) making a living from writing. However, I wanted to tell you about one very simple but motivating exercise that we did.

At the end of the day each course participant was given a sheet of paper and asked to note down their writing goals for the next three months. We were also given a stamped envelope, asked to address it to ourselves and put our sheet of writing goals inside. Joanna and Orna collected the envelopes, stored them for three months and then posted them.

My list of goals arrived through the letterbox a couple of weeks ago. I couldn’t remember exactly what targets I’d set myself (they’d been written at the end of a long day when I was full of enthusiasm for everything I’d just learned) so I was prepared to see a list of over-ambitious stuff I hadn’t done. But there was a nice surprise – all three goals had been achieved:

  • Started the publishing process for my second grip-lit novel, The Promise.  At the time I wrote this goal the novel was under consideration by The Book Guild and I’d decided that if they turned it down I would embark on the self-publishing route rather than join the masses knocking at every agent’s door. Happily, The Book Guild felt The Promise had commercial potential and I’ve now seen the cover (it will be revealed it in a later post), had a lovely endorsement by crime writer Judith Cutler and had the typeset proofs. Publication day is 28th January 2018!
  • Create a boxed set of my three short story collections in e-book and paperback format. Done and blogged about. The proof (should you need it) is on Amazon and Kobo in the form of A Coffee Break Story Collection : 36 Short Stories
  • Update Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners to reflect the lessons learned as I created the paperback version of the boxed set and also to include other changes in KDP since I’d last updated the book. A tick for that one as well! The updated book is now available.

Last weekend I exchanged my next set of goals with my writing buddy, Helen Yendall (we managed to talk writing for 4 hours – can you believe that?!) and we’ll meet again in November to see how we did.

Do you make goals? How do you make yourself accountable?

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Two New Books for Writers

By now the initial excitement of New Year’s resolutions will have passed and keeping up that writing habit may have become a bit of a slog again. But do not despair – as always, your fellow writers are here to help and re-enthuse you.the-business-of-writing-by-simon-whaley

Simon Whaley is on a mission to make us all become more businesslike about our writing. If we treat our writing seriously and as a source of income, then our family and friends will adopt that attitude too – essential if you want to turn that ‘nice little hobby’ into a publishing empire! Simon’s blog about The Business of Writing is full of useful tips and many of you will recognise Simon’s name from his regular (and wise) column in Writing Magazine. He’s gathered together many of those articles into a handy e-book, also called The Business of Writing. It covers things like tax, record keeping, legalities, pseudonyms and much more, plus there are lots of tips and advice from writers across the genres.

start-a-creative-writing-class-by-helen-yendallTeaching writing is one way that many authors top up their income but the thought of getting a class up and running can be daunting. Helen Yendall has years of experience as a writing tutor and she’s just published an e-book sharing the knowledge that she’s built up – Start a Creative Writing Class: How to set up, run and teach a successful class. The book focuses on the nuts and bolts of setting up a writing class for adults, covering everything from finding a venue and arranging insurance, to marketing the class and giving feedback. There’s also plenty of advice on dealing with students and ideas of what (and how) to teach. It contains 100 x 5 minute writing exercises plus icebreaker ideas to get the class warmed-up and ready to learn.

 

So let 2017 be the year you fulfill your ambitions and take your writing more seriously – with the help of Simon and Helen.

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Creative Writing Prompts

This week’s post is prompted by a writing acquaintance who was asking for suggestions of websites that have good creative writing prompts.

Creative writing prompts are useful for those times when the ideas just won’t come. Using a prompt focuses the mind and encourages the words onto the paper. It doesn’t matter if the story then goes off at a tangent from the original prompt – the prompt has already done it’s job by starting the process.

There are various sites offering creative writing prompts. Here are a few to get you started:

Many writing competitions supply a prompt in the form of a subject or theme. These prompts have the added advantages of a ready market to which your story can be submitted and a deadline to work to.

My writing buddy, Helen Yendall, is currently running one such short story competition, it’s free to enter and only requires 100 words! It closes July 12th 2016. Why not have a go?

Do you have a favourite way of generating prompts and ideas?

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The Art of Receiving Criticism

A couple of weeks ago my writing buddy, Helen Yendall, wrote a blog post about The Art of Giving Feedback. Today, I’m going to come at it from the other side and talk about the The Art of Receiving Criticism.

I am working on a novel, in fact I thought I’d done a reasonable job on it. But I know how hard it can be to look at one’s own writing objectively so I decided to seek the opinion of an expert. I chose published romantic novelist Patricia Fawcett. I have met her a couple of times at writing events and she is also a reader for the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. Also, Patricia’s critiques are great value for money.

I received a comprehensive report on my novel suggesting several ways that it could be improved, starting with the first chapter where the pace is a ‘domestic crawl’. On the positive side, Patricia said that she liked my female main character who is ‘vulnerable and interesting’ but, on the negative side, my male main character comes across badly and I need to put in more of his back story so the reader gets to know him. Patricia also pointed out that part of the plot depends on a couple of unlikely coincidences that would ‘get up an editor’s nose’ – so they need taking out and/or re-working. She also suggested a different ending to the novel, which I think will probably be more plausible than the one I had in mind. There was much more in the report but I won’t bore you with it all.

So I’ve still got a lot more work ahead of me.

If I’d received this report a few years ago I would probably have stuffed it in a drawer and given up all hope of ever being able to write anything longer than a 1200 word short story. But as the years go by (and I get older and wiser) I realise that very few people get it right first time and there’s no reason why I should be any different. So it’s time to submerge myself in the plot again and learn from everything that Patricia has highlighted.

Patricia ended her report positively, she said, “If I have gauged you right, you will dust yourself down, shake this one up, and carry on to prove to me and to yourself that you can do it.”

Fingers crossed that I can!

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Bits and Pieces

Today I was going to post about the Telegraph/Saga Travel Writing Competition but my writing buddy, Helen, got there before me. Read all about it on her blog. I’ll be joining her at Swanwick tomorrow – and hopefully partaking of some of that wine which she also mentions on her blog …

Not sure if I’ll get much free time at Swanwick but I’m taking with me JoJo Moyes‘ latest book The One Plus One. I received a copy for review via the Mumsnet Bloggers’ Network. So watch this space for my opinion in a couple of weeks (just noticed the book has 654 reviews on Amazon UK – does it actually need anymore?!).

Next, a shout out for Janice Preston. I know Janice through the Birmingham Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and she recently had her debut novel, Mary and the Marquis, published by Mills and Boon. How great is that! It’s a steamy Regency romance and well worth a look.

Finally, if you’re one of the few readers of this blog who haven’t already got the short story collection One Day for Me, you’ve only got until the end of Saturday 9th August (i.e. tomorrow) to download it for the bargain price of 99p/99c (UK/US only). Then Amazon will stick the price back up.

 

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Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners

As most of you will be aware by now, I am very interested in e-publishing and have been building my own Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginnerse-publishing empire(!) for the last twelve months. I’ve picked up a lot of knowledge along the way and have also had many people say to me that they wished they were ‘technical’ enough to do the same.

A couple of months ago Helen Yendall asked if I would talk about e-books and e-publishing to the writing class that she tutors at Moreton-in-Marsh. Whilst sorting out what I might say, quaking in my boots and being glad that I made the effort to join Sutton Coldfield Speakers’ Club, I realised that I had enough material to write a short e-book for beginners who want to publish their first e-book via Amazon KDP.

And so Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners was born.

It starts with the definition of an e-book and moves on through topics such as choosing what to write (if you don’t have a manuscript ‘ready to go’), how to get your book cover, basic marketing and much much more.

Once I’d finished, I followed my own advice and found a beta reader who matched my target audience i.e. a writer who is contemplating e-publishing for the first time. Peter Hinchliffe is an ex-journalist and news editor who has also completed a novel. He gave my manuscript a big thumbs up and said in his review, “This book shares the skills needed in a detailed, easy-to-follow way. It could be the most rewarding book you ever buy.”

The launch of Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners took place yesterday, following my talk to the lovely writers of Moreton-in-Marsh. There was Bucks Fizz, chocolate cake, coffee and one of the writers celebrated her new grandchild by providing cream cakes for the class – so no one went home hungry! It was really nice to be able to involve other people in the launch instead of doing everything virtually.

So, if you’ve ever fancied seeing your work for sale on Amazon, go and take a look at Kindle Direct Publishing for Absolute Beginners – it might help you on your way!

KDP for Absolute Beginners Book Launch

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No one understands me …

… like another writer.

Everyone knows that writing is a lonely business, a solitary pursuit that is not for those who need other people around them.

I don’t mind being alone with my computer or notepad – I quite like my own company. But some sort of evolutionary process has made us humans into social beings who, occasionally, need interaction with like-minded people.

And ‘like-minded’ can be the difficult bit. I have a lovely family but they are not writers and have no interest in the literary world, bar a library book to read before bed. So it’s difficult to share with them the ups and downs of a writer’s life.

I don’t tell my husband about every rejection I receive or every competition in which I fail to even make the short-list. He’d probably ask me why I was bothering to write anything at all. But, to justify the time I spend at the keyboard, I do tell him in great detail about every success, however tiny. But that doesn’t count as an interaction with a like-minded person.

That’s why it’s so liberating when I get to meet up with another writer, especially one who shares the same interests as me. How good it is to talk to someone who knows the difference between a story for People’s Friend and one for Take a Break. How nice it is to see the sympathy in someone’s eyes when you tell them about the rejection of a story that you were sure had been absolutely perfect for your chosen market.  And how great to share news of a success!

And it’s absolutely wonderful to talk to someone who doesn’t see writing as your little ‘eccentricity’ that you are indulging in now that the children are almost grown-up.

I’m very lucky in having a great writing buddy in Helen. Last week we had our quarterly catch-up and target-setting. Back home I’m thinking I was too ambitious in my targets – probably caused by the over-enthusiasm generated by talking to another writer.  But never mind – it will do me good to aim high.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting a virtual friend in person for the first time. I got to know Sharon via this blog and discovered she lived in the same town where I was brought up. So last time I was in the area we met for coffee. Sharon runs Fiction Addiction – an online critique group for womag writers. It was good to put a face to a name and share the trials and tribulations of trying to get published!

So how do you feed the need to share the frustrations and joys of writing? Are you lucky enough to have a like-minded partner or maybe you let off steam on a writers’ forum?

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